“Books About Town” Benches Bring London’s Literary Heritage to Life

London’s National Literacy Trust has joined with the UK’s leading producer of mass participation public art events Wild in Art to transform London’s landscape into an interactive, artistic literary playground via four trails of custom-made benches that are shaped and painted as some of the most famous and beloved books of London’s rich and enduring literary heritage. The project, titled Books about Town, brings together literature, art, beautiful scenery, and the public to explore London’s literary heritage while promoting literacy, celebrating the joy of reading, and viewing works by some of the capital’s top artists.

Venture into the world of literature. Meet your favorite characters. Enjoy the boldly colorful and creative book benches. Relive your favorite stories. Recharge your love of literature. Not only does Books About Town offer the public the chance to relax and relive favorite books, but the project also includes events surrounding the benches. Recently, children who passed the Mary Poppins bench were able to meet the famous, magical nanny and win one of one hundred copies of the book. Some of the other events include an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most people dressed as our favorite detective Sherlock Holmes, a performance by the cast of the 1984 stage production, online competitions, and more character appearances and book giveaways.

Children’s book illustrators, commercial artists, and high school students have contributed pieces to this project, including Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass illustrator Ralph Steadman who recreated some of his illustrations from the original 1973 edition to decorate their Alice-themed bench, while another bench designed by the students of Hillside High School in Liverpool captures the essence some of Charles Dickens’s famous works.

Although most of the benches are inspired by children’s books as the focus of the project is to spark an interest and a love for reading in the young, there is a book bench to suit and inspire everyone’s literary interests including such classics as George Orwell’s cautionary dystopian novel 1984 and explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s account of the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition in Frozen in Time.

Books About Town is a celebration of the rich imagination of authors and readers, and it aims to make reading an irresistible experience to people of all ages, especially children. The beautiful benches are the perfect way to transform normally drab public seating into an artistic and imaginative statement. If you’re in the London area and want to check out the benches, use the trail map to locate them before the project’s end in September 2014. Afterwards, interested parties will have the chance to own their favorite book bench: the benches will be auctioned off in the Southbank Centre to raise funds to increase literacy levels in the UK. You can stay up-to-date on the project and share photos of your experiences with the benches via the project’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts as well as the project’s official website.


Jamie Lowe

Recent college graduate and aspiring literary agent.

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